Prospect Notebook: Week 5

Blockers have a tough time stopping Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver from getting into the backfield. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ric Serritella

In this week's Prospect Notebook we take a look at NFL teams in early contention for the top overall pick, examine some of the latest draft risers from the FBS and FCS levels, plus other notable prospects garnering attention...

EYES ON APRIL: With three weeks of the NFL in the books, Arizona, Houston and Oakland are all 0-3. None of those teams is in the market for a franchise quarterback, which could make for a defensive-heavy top of the first round.

As it stands today, Ohio State junior defensive end Nick Bosa (6-3, 270, 4.76, #97) and Houston junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver (6-2, 290, 4.92, #10) will be heavy favorites to be the first two players off the board.

Meanwhile, Oregon junior quarterback Justin Herbert (6-5, 225, 4.81, #10) is the consensus top draft-eligible quarterback prospect here at NFL Draft Scout. Despite a heart-breaking loss to Stanford last week, Herbert demonstrated a quick release, laser arm and excellent touch, while executing the Ducks' up-tempo offense.

FINLEY OFF TO FAST START: North Carolina State senior quarterback Ryan Finley (6-3, 210, 4.80, #15) is sizzling, throwing for 300-plus yards in each of his first three games this season, with his latest performance coming on the road in a victory at Marshall. Finley is completing his passes at a clip of 68.6 percent, demonstrating pin-point accuracy and a quick trigger finger.

Known as an intellect on the field and in the classroom (holds three academic degrees, including his master's), Finley makes keen decisions and shows a quick release, a large reason why the Wolfpack have enjoyed so much success on third downs (60 percent). Marshall head coach Doc Holliday compared him to Philip Rivers, whom he coached at North Carolina State during the early 2000s.

Finley, a Boise State transfer, has made an effort to improve his athleticism in the pocket, which continues to be a work in progress. While he doesn't possess the strongest arm in this year's draft class, Finley has proven capable of making all the throws. While other top quarterback prospects continue their streaky play, the Phoenix native remains on fire.

WINFIELD JR. DONE FOR SEASON: Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr. (5-10, 205, 4.55, #11) was enjoying a spectacular season, both on defense and special teams but in an unfortunate turn of events, the Gophers playmaker suffered a season-ending left foot injury during a non-contact play in Week 4 action.

It marks the second consecutive year that Winfield's season will end prematurely (last season he endured a left hamstring injury in the fourth game). In 17 career games, the aggressive corner has 88 tackles, two interceptions and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard punt return earlier this year.

Winfield is expected to seek a medical hardship waiver once again after the season, giving him a sixth year of eligibility and essentially making him a fourth-year sophomore in 2019.

FUTURE WATCH: Wisconsin sophomore Jonathan Taylor (5-11, 213, 4.51, #23) could probably step into the starting lineup for more than half the teams in the NFL today; he's that special. However, the NFL will be forced to wait at least another season until he's draft eligible.

Taylor shows impressive vision and patience, along with toughness between the tackles. His burst and explosiveness allow him to accelerate into the second level, where he is able to showcase his elusiveness and ability to shed tackles, as he picks up a chunk of yards after contact. He continues to improve his pass-catching and blocking skills, as he works on becoming a complete overall back.

Taylor is on path to become one of the all-time greats in NCAA history and a future first-round pick.

SMALL SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: In a feature matchup between two standout FCS wideouts, the Princeton Tigers hosted the Monmouth Hawks, in the first game between two Division I football programs in the state of New Jersey since 1980 (Princeton at Rutgers).

The Tigers would roar in this one, as they shredded the Hawks, 51-9, led by Jesper Horsted (6-3, 220, 4.60, #4), who nabbed eight balls for 150 yards and three scores, on his way to setting the school's all-time touchdown record (20). Horsted is a bit of a long strider but presents a tall target and excellent body control. He has the makeup of a possession receiver at the next level and could possibly convert to tight end, as his frame and game compares to Jacob Hollister (Patriots), who made the same transition coming out of Wyoming.

On the Monmouth side, Reggie White Jr. (6-2, 210, 4.57, #9), totaled eight catches and 98 yards in a losing effort, showing off his vertical skills and leaping ability. White is dangerous on bubbles and end arounds too, utilizing his vision and acceleration to make big plays. He remains on pace to break Miles Austin's school record of 2,867 receiving yards.

Horsted and White are seniors and will be in NFL training camps fighting for a roster spot next August.


Buffalo junior quarterback Tyree Jackson (6-6, 245, 4.78, #3) continues to make NFL-caliber throws, flashing a cannon of an arm and should be viewed as a potential starter at the next level. ... Georgia looks for new ways to get the ball in the hands of the versatile junior Mecole Hardman (5-10, 183, 4.38, #4) as a receiver, runner and return man. He is currently viewed as a Day 2 selection. ... Missouri redshirt sophomore tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (6-5, 260, 4.84, #81) served as a one-man gang against Georgia this past week, collecting a career-high nine receptions for 81 yards; he's bound for the first round. ... Wisconsin senior inside linebacker T.J. Edwards (6-1, 244, 4.79, #53) sealed the deal with a game-clinching interception against Iowa, avoiding the upset and coming up clutch once again when needed most. ... Oregon senior edge rusher Justin Hollis (6-4, 238, 4.80, #11) has adapted well to playing with his hand in the dirt, registering 17 tackles, 5.5 for loss, three sacks, three fumble recoveries, a pair of forced fumbles and an interception through three games.

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